Please note the new address of our ee blog:
“Before you study the economics, study the economists!”
Who Rules? The State or the Import Merchants?
e-Con e-News 22-28 March 2020
At this vital hour, listen to this speech delivered by Philip Gunawardena to the scientific community of Sri Lanka in the 1960s, where he points to the immense mineral riches of the country, and reiterates the importance of an industrial revolution. – youtube.com/watch?v=TDT-pevEGsY
How these steps towards industrialization were eventually undermined and destroyed, offers important lessons for us at this moment. That the country has still been able to fight back in this crisis is a tribute to the cultivators and workers of this country. Let them not be let down again.
A1. Random Notes – The State Must Initiate Production & Distribution • Village & Urban Councils Now • US/Europe Ready for Mass Sacrifice Again • Local Merchants Hoarding & Jacking Prices • What Happened at the FTZ? • Army, Cultivators & Workers • Remote Villages & Shantytowns • Garbage Frontline Health • English WW2 Measures • Bankers, Pharma & Google Set to Reap • No more Corporate Bailouts • Don’t Depend on Private Sector • Socialize the Multinationals • Factories Easily Retrofitted • Hunger? • Freedom of Speech • Kapruka & Merchant Class • Suddenly Trillions are Available! • Where is IPS Sally? • Welfare to Warfare • WB/IMF Advice • Capitalism & Social Distancing • Helaveda, Ayurveda & Animals
A2. Reader Comments – ee & basic truths & timely sharing • Community Associations • Start Small • ee should stick to Analysis vs News
A3. Quotes of the Week – Guess who’s coming with help? • Retribution on English Writers • RSS Runs India • US Sanctions Mass Death in Iran • Disease Better than Cure for US • Doctors Oversee Assange Torture • Big Tech to Take Over Public Health
B. ee Focus
B1. Our President’s Clarion Call to Remedy High Vegetable Prices – Garvin Karunaratne
B2. Anti-Capitalist Politics in the Time of Covid-19 – David Harvey
B3. Imperialism, Globalization & the Soap/Suds Industry in Republican China (1912-37): the Case of Unilever & Chinese Consumers
B4. South Africa Inc & the Assassination of a PM
C. News Index
A1. Random Notes (‘Seeing Number in Chaos’)____
The state must fully take over production & distribution immediately. Village, neighborhood & workplace councils must be organized and set in motion at once, prioritizing the needs of the elderly, infirm & the hungry.
Biological warfare waged by imperialism throughout Asia, Africa and the Americas, will increase as financial capitalism engenders greater and more frequent crises, while it attempts to stay alive at any cost.
Even if Covid-19 was eradicated next week, village, community and worker councils must still be extended to ensure we meet any crisis. This is evident from the ancient gansabha, that organized the solidarity needed to build and extend the fundamental irrigation systems that made us the “Granary of the East”. It is in our very bones. It must be nurtured and revived.
• Big corporations that run mass distribution networks: Unilever, Prima, CTC, Uber, Pickme, etc., pharmacies and major supermarket chains – must also be declared essential public utilities. The Anglo-Americas & Europe, where most of the multinationals still dominating our country’s resources are based, appear ready to sacrifice whole masses of their population, while, as usual, shifting the weight of the crisis onto our countries. This is no option for us. Those who have consistently undermined the power of the state to act to develop the economy, are now blaming it for inaction. It is clear that it is the import lobby that still rules this country.
• The MNCs and their agents, the local merchants, keep having a ball, making a killing, hoarding goods, jacking up prices, passing off substandard goods, in many cases causing dangerous chaos, undermining the very basis of so-called ‘social distancing’, people’s health and distribution. (see ee Focus, B1)
The Exporter’s Associations (Tea, Apparel) etc, put pressure on the government to keep plantations working, and especially factories in the Free Trade Zone, trapping workers inside despite their risk of contagion. Only when full curfew was declared, did they let people go, without even paying their due wages, then depending on army trucks to take people home. (see ee Workers, Govt requests BOI).
These ‘import/export’ capitalists have long refused to invest in advancing these sectors, insisting on labor-intensive assembly – primitive pre-industrial industry. The Planters’ Association is also making demands, yet people know full well, their claims to protect workers’ health have never been true. Meanwhile UNP leader Ranil Wickremasinghe is also demanding the government let private companies import health equipment to profit off the crisis. They clearly never learn.
• Only the army directed by cultivators & workers, especially health workers, can protect the country. Skilled cultivators & workers are a nation’s greatest wealth. Corporation- & money-dominated electioneering and easy profiteering must not be allowed to keep tripping up the country. It would only undermine the momentum of a President & government people have bestowed great hopes on. The state & armed forces must not be used by the fake ‘industrialists’ (that neither make machines nor source local supplies) to mistreat workers.
• Cultivators across the country keep being undermined by middlemen & merchants, as is their usual practice. People in remote rural areas as well as estate workers also need support. There are over 500+ ‘shantytowns’ in Colombo alone, perhaps constituting the majority of the capital’s population. They’re the women & men who provide the bulk of the ‘minor’ staff as well as the cleaners, cooks and security for the wealthier Colombo folk. They cannot depend on criminal yuppie distributors like Uber, already stealing public space by not providing basic rest facilities to their own workers (many coming from these very ‘shanties’).
• So who are the low-skilled now? Garbage collectors are frontline preventative healthworkers, more important than doctors, for they promote sanitation & preventative measures. When facemasks are thrown away, where do they go? If garbage workers get sick in large numbers or go on strike, what will happen in the cities? We will asphyxiate in the detritus of wasteful conspicuous consumption (see ee Focus, B2).
ee has already shown, what the English conceded during WW2, to protect their colonial rule, to enable local production, curtail imports & waste, and impose rationing (see: The World as Their Keyboard: MNCs & ‘Corruption, eesrilanka.wordpress.com/2020/02/15)
• Multinationals, especially the hi-techs, are moving fast to exploit the crisis. On March 10, Barclays held a Global Healthcare Conference, with pharmaceuticals’ price hikes. (see ee Economy) Google is planning to take over municipal services, including public health. (see ee Quotes)
Like in 2007-8, financial bailouts with public money are again scheduled for MNCs, deemed too big to fail or jail, apparently. China’s infrastructural spending rescued the world economy. There was also a massive boom in hyper consumerism (see Focus, B2) Yet, as capitalist crises get more frequent, how long can this ‘capitalist welfare’ go on?
• Lanka cannot & must not depend on the private sector, that has not only consistently refused to industrialize but has also sabotaged such efforts (see: The Pride of the Nation – 20thC Industrialization in SL, eesrilanka.wordpress.com/2019/08/24) When President Mahinda Rajapakse attempted to revive the State Trading Wholesale Company to import necessities, Susil Moonesinghe, its first Chairman envisaged something like Chile President Allende’s cybernetics projects, with a control room with big data about world market prices. Unfortunately it didn’t receive any teeth, or it would have imported direct from the producers, bypassing the middlemen.
Importing through private sector agents remains the biggest problem. English capital has been known to target, frame and assassinate those who oppose their powers. When foreign governments try to help the health sector with modern equipment, they get blocked by the medical equipment lobby. (see ee Focus, B4)
• ee was set up to call for local industrial production, and has responded to every criticism on earth against the modern industrialization of Sri Lanka. From: having no industrial resources, to a too-small market to lack of capital, to increasing pollution, etc. Because of the situation now, as is usually done to counter this call, some feeble attempts promising “local manufacture” (like those mythical Volkswagens) will be publicized again, yet the import merchants would continue to rule.
Factories can be easily retrofitted to produce other vital goods. Bailing out companies as in the past, show they simply pocket the money and continue in their old ways, laying off workers en masse.
Now is also the time to socialize multinationals that operate behind a 1,000 front companies, and monopolize vast production & distribution resources in Lanka, eg Unilever, Nestles, CIC, etc. MNCs like CTC-BAT should also be made to pay the public health system for undermining people’s health. Such concentrated organizations are ripe for socialization, but are well known for their resort to assassination & destabilization. Their links to chattel slavery and drug trading are well documented. (see ee Focus, B3 & B4)
• Notice the delayed reaction on the banning of sales of cigarettes, linked to exacerbating Covid. Tobacco companies may not wish to be hit by lawsuits, yet they should be made to pay. South Africa’s Rupert (owner of tobacco giant Rembrandt, linked to BAT which owns Ceylon Tobacco) says he will only help businesses that are ‘51% Black-owned’. (see ee Business)
This recalls that many so-called Sinhala businessmen were/are fronts for old English & English-allied Indian businesses – who control the machinery & the raw materials for Maliban, etc. This 51% business reminds us, that someone can have 1% of total shares & control a company if that 1% alone has voting rights. The other 99% of shareowners only get dividends, but have no control over the company’s existence & future.
Some wish the state to operate through small businesses. What do “small businesses” mean? Sillara kaday or supermarket? The village kaday of old perhaps had local produce. But the kadays and supermarkets of today, where do their stocks come for? Are they mere fronts for the multinational importers and the middlemen who rip off both cultivators and workers. What do they do with most of the money? Where do they invest it? Where does it go? What have private banks done with all this cash?
• What percentage of people in SL are currently going hungry? How long will the hungry stay quiescent, especially with imperialism and their local agents always ready to rouse? Do mouthy social-media prophets calling for extended lockdowns & curfews offer plans to deal with such emergencies? People without any thorough research or responsibility or having to bear the consequences of their statements, demand all types of solutions. The age-old response to those who demand unfettered “freedom of speech”: “No investigation, no right to speak.”
The recent exposure of so-called gig online company Kapruka, which is full of talk about green this & that, tying their food delivery prices to the latest exchange rate on the dollar(!), clearly shows how backward they actually are. But Kapruka is not alone & is representative of the usual mercantile mindset. The name Kapruka itself refers to the enormous resources the coconut tree offers. Shame that the name too has been privatized!
• Despite publicized offers by leading merchants to make donations of funds, materials & hotel beds here & there, with companies claiming to deliver food via phone, it’s blatantly evident they cannot cope nor wish to. ee has shown many a time how the private sector, so inured to making a quick buck, has no intention to protect or advance the country,
• Suddenly trillions are available! After decades of killing public health and education! Capitalism and its fictions! ee tries to avoid using the word ‘neoliberalism’. It is a creation of those intellectuals co-opted into academe, who were forbidden from using the word, capitalism, on the pain of losing tenure. They have to come up with new euphemisms, that confuse more people than educate. The spawn of Hayek and Friedman, of Reagan and Thatcher, whatever happened to neoconservative? As for Huntington and his baby Fukuyama, with clash of civilizations and the end of history? Who is civilized now?
• Where are the IPS Sallys, the Advocatas, the Nightwatchmen, the Verites, the Pathfinders, the libertarians, the corporate anarchists & the media-loved economists, etc, who daily demanded, with a compliant media, that we ‘precarize’ workers by making them even more insecure, privatizing healthcare & education & everything else…? Where are the snowjobs of yesteryear?
For many decades, especially after the retreat of the Soviet Union, the imperialist countries diverted funds from welfare, to waging even more warfare, while the IMF & World Bank forcibly redirected spending from healthcare to servicing debt, shredding public health services. They’re now again offering to ‘suspend’ debt. In fact, their debt suspensions & cancellations only further deepened our debt burden. (see, eesrilanka.wordpress.com/2018/10/11/debt-relief-schemes-get-us-into-deeper-debt, Garvin Karunaratne)
In exchange for being saved from jail or the guillotine, debts must be revoked; the funds stolen by private banks & oligarchs, abroad & here, must be returned and invested in modern industrialization!
The financial system has been centralized with the US$ as the linchpin, allowing the US to bypass both the UN & WTO and impose their will on others, through their financial system.
Anyway, the WB & IMF appear increasingly irrelevant and must be superceded by Asia, Africa, the real Americas & Eastern Europe asserting our unity.
Capitalism has brought us to its ultimate goal of atomization, fragmentation & social isolation. Decades of undermining public healthcare & education have now enabled open declarations of mass murder by leaders in the West. It will once again, as it’s doing already, shift the burden onto workers, claiming no money, yet then promote murderous wars.
At the same time, people are also coming together in numerous ways. We must make sure we do not go back to the all-profit-system that only weakens us all…
• The corporate media, led by the US, is spreading misinformation & fear (see ee Media). For 1000s of years, Ayurveda also has used 500 different animals & their parts for medicines. Helaveda (Sinhala meds) uses 200 animals & parts, including pangolin scales, etc. ee imagines Siddhaveda does too… The 19th Century English opium trade between India and China was, after 17-18th century chattel slavery, the “greatest commerce” setting up so-called modernity (and their multinationals) throughout Asia. Yet Chinese people are being insulted again, with sheer ignorant white goo (which we do not use, except perhaps to turn ‘fair&lovely’) cos they fear how advanced our peoples are, that the dragon is awake… (see ee Focus, B3)
A2. Reader Comments
• “At this precarious time, like so many basic truths, ee’s main message of the need for industrialization & self-reliance really hits home. Yet how can the self-isolated act now? But we all can still share scientific info via social media, even organize with neighbours while social distancing, and figure how to support the vulnerable including isolated elders, daily wage workers, & overburdened health workers.”
• “Wuhan’s lockdown was so successful due to China’s community/neighbourhood-association system, organizing staggered essentials shopping & support. Watch local CGTN for such useful info sharing China’s experience, including much that western media rarely reports, eg effective use of traditional medicine.”
• “We could all start small: eg home gardens, changing eating habits & encouraging others, to limit nonlocal foods, eg less imported wheat, dhal (from Canada/Oz), processed packaged foods, sugar, & eat more kurankan, manioc, horsegram, jaggery, edible leaves all round us, etc – better for health & immunity too! Sharing info, ideas, and curfew recipes! Think of innovative ideas to try to help the community & healthcare system, like making our own sanitizers or masks.”
• “We have all kinds of ‘news sites’ & e-papers (Lanka enews, cnews…etc) that operate as newspapers probably requiring registration somewhere. What if ee too came out as a daily, every other day,or 3 days a week bulletin, that people learn to access for an interesting take on events?
Even one or 2 stories like this & ee comments on how we can process them – maximum 3 – could be posted online. We then get to read ee’s eye-opening takes on the story. It’s not a newspaper as such so it’d not be asked to officially register, etc.
More ee insights will get shared if the daily or twice weekly post has only 2 stories. And people can go back & look through the archive. The weekly too may shift emphasis to giving prominence to the compilers’ views (the most interesting item now, in the weekly, is a copy of a column by one half-tooth). People I know look to ee less to keep in touch with all of the week’s news & more to get the compilers’ nuggets.”
– ee Responds: Random Notes are based on reading & analyzing as much of the week’s news as possible. The News Compendium is provided as a resource for both signaling important news, as well as maintaining a historical record.
A3. Quotes of the Week__
• “Guess who is coming with help? Yes, the people themselves are doing their best, either by self-distancing or helping each other or simply resisting panic & keeping spirits high. Yes, the scientist & medical professionals. Yes, the public service (surprise! surprise!). And yes, it’s China, Russia & Cuba, 3 countries vilified for decades by those who sold us tall stories about ‘development, modernity, human rights & democracy’! Right here in SL, what’s helping us cope? Why, the public sector! It’s the doctors, nurses, attendants. It’s the armed forces & the police. It’s the divisional secretaries, grama niladharis, the public health inspectors & employees in all the state institutions delivering ‘essential services’. It’s not only the public sector. It’s the public itself. And what are they drawing from if not a culture honed over millennia.” – https://malindawords.blogspot.com/2020/03/a-test-run-for-better-tomorrow.html
• “The retribution visited upon the head of an Asian, an African, an Arab intellectual who is of any consequence & who writes in English is that s/he is immediately elevated to the lonely splendour of a ‘representative’ of a race, a continent, a civilization, even the ‘3rd World.” – In Theory, Aijaz Ahmad
• “Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), India’s National Volunteer Organization, is the oldest, largest & most successful far-right group in the world today. It is also the effective ruling power in India. The ruling BJP is merely a political front – one of numerous fronts – for the RSS. Narendra Modi, the PM, has been a functionary of the RSS all his life & it was the RSS that decided to field him first as chief minister of Gujarat (2001-14) & then as India’s PM (from 2014). Few cabinet ministers in BJP governments, past or present, have not been loyal members of the organization, which has never given a transparent account of its finances or its members.” (see ee Sovereignty, Strictly Technical)
• “US sanctions have set the stage for mass death in Iran: Iran’s government applied for a $5bn (€4.6bn) loan from the IMF to fight the epidemic – the first time it has asked the IMF for assistance in over 50 years. Yet, even if it gets the loan, the administration won’t be able to shop for much-needed medical supplies: US sanctions make the banking transactions required to secure even medical supplies & humanitarian goods virtually impossible.” (see ee Sovereignty, US threatens)
• “We will soon be back to business as usual…we cannot let the cure be worse than the disease” – US President Trump
• “Should Assange die in an English prison…he will effectively have been tortured to death. Much of that torture will have taken place in a prison medical ward, on doctors’ watch.” (see ee Security)
• “Big tech’s smart city initiatives aim at taking over governance & decision-making functions in cities around the world. While peer-to-peer platform giants like Uber & AirBnB have long been disrupting labour & housing markets, a current attempt by Sidewalk Labs, a subsidiary of Alphabet, and sibling to Google, to develop data-driven infrastructure in Toronto not only aims to remake entire city districts, but also to subsequently privatize city governance, municipal services, land-use planning, transit, housing & more. The current Covid-19 induced crisis may accelerate this trend under the banner of public health, online education & disease control, if we don’t organize appropriately.”
B. Special Focus____
B1. Our President’s Clarion Call to Remedy High Vegetable Prices – Garvin Karunaratne
A Special Message to our Excellency the President – Please consider getting the Army to re-establish the Marketing Department of the 1950s, and thereby enable vegetable availability as well as controlling inflation. It can be later developed into a major dept. The total outlay can be recouped including the cost of establishing a cannery within the first year. I can vouch for this…
It is hoped our President’s attention is brought to the fact that our country was the only country in the world to have a system by which the prices of vegetables & fruit was unofficially controlled. That was the Marketing Dept (MD) at work, buying & selling vegetables & fruit, competing with private traders, keeping a low margin of around 15% to cover up cost of transport & wastage in handling.
It would behove of our President to immediately order the Army to buy vegetables from the Producer Fairs, keep a margin of 15% to cover cost of petrol & wastage, and sell in the cities. Traders keep at least a total of 100% at the buying place, at the wholesale dealer in Colombo & retailer’s places.
The Army was entrusted with this task in the days of PM Mahinda Rajapaksa in about 1998 and then the city was full of army lorries selling vegetables. I have seen them perform this yeoman service.
The Dambulla Economic Centre (DEC) & other Economic Centres are not the answer. As detailed in the Daily Mirror 24/2/20 – “Take Immediate Steps to Control Veg prices: Pres to Officials” – vegetables brought to Dambulla from the areas of vegetable cultivation are distributed back (for sale) to the original areas… these centres are controlled by large-scale traders with vested interests.” Once it was reported, the officer entrusted with the DEC was severely assaulted.
It is traders that rule. When I once went to Dambulla & walked around, it was only traders. My incessant visits to Producer Fairs for over 6 years enables me to sniff producers from a fair distance. It will be a difficult task to find a Producer Fair in entire SL not visited by me.
In 1955 when I joined the MD as an Assistant Commissioner we did work from small shanty-type of… Packing Sheds… all buildings built with timber, a cement floor and a corrugated cladding to keep off the rain & in a corner was housed the Assistant Commissioner working in the air & dust of onions & condiments. There were no DPJ Towers or Setsiripayas for us. These were sheds put up overnight to house the English Army when Japan declared war. In the MD, our work commenced at 4am at least 4 days a week, visiting Producer Fairs & ensuring we bought produce competing with the traders.
Once in the pre-IMF days, in the days before SL started playing poodle to the IMF, Lanka did have a method by which it controlled inflation. That was the MD at work. There was a scheme where the MD purchased vegetables at the producer fairs, brought the produce overnight to the cities, sold keeping a very low margin of 15% to cover cost of transport & wastage. This scheme, developed by SL administrators & politicians, was abolished on instructions from the IMF in 1978 when the Jayawardena Government caved in to the IMF. Since then it is the private-sector traders that rule trade.
If only the Marketing Dept activities are restored, we can not only control inflation, but we can also reduce imports and also find employment for our people. It is time our new Government makes an initiative to re-establish the MD activities – its vegetable & fruit marketing scheme & the Canning Factory. That will be a real achievement… The working of the MD meant the private traders at the Fairs and the Wholesale Traders as well as Retail Traders in the cities had to be satisfied with a low margin.
The MD in the ‘50s was headed by BLW Fernando, a Chartered Accountant, & he would not allow any Assistant Commissioner (AC) to keep a higher margin than 15%. That was a rule to be followed. Every month all ACs had to attend a Conference where the Profit & Loss calculations were closely studied & the Commissioner would chastise all ACs that had a profit of over 10% or incurred a loss. We were expected to cover costs, not to incur a loss or to get a large profit.
This was the key method by which the prices of vegetables & fruits were kept in check. The Scheme has thus a dual aim – of offering the producer a fair price as well as offering the consumer a low price. At times it was like walking on a rope but we got used to walk on it. The Retail Shops had to be well stocked & full of goods, otherwise the wrath of the Commissioner had to be faced.
A few years ago on one of my visits I found tomatos being sold at 40 rupees a kilo by a producer on the Mahiyangana Rd, when the retail price in Colombo was around rupees 80-100, a margin of over 100%. This could not happen while the MD was at work. The ACs were eternally traveling as they had to visit Fairs, inspect purchasing at the Fairs & Vegetable Purchasing Depots, contact producers & offer advice on items on demand. Generally our traveling allowances exceeded our salaries…
I hope the Army will be enlisted for this task of marketing development. In President Trump’s USA the Army is widely used for irrigation, power station construction, even maintaining levees that keep the sea from flooding New Orleans. In my wide travel in the USA, clocking over 50,000 miles in my Roadtrek motorhome, crossing the US thrice I have seen the Army at work doing nonmilitary duties on a regular basis. It is we fools that do not enlist the Army for development tasks. If at all we touch the Army, we call them to the barracks in a short while.
Let the Army experience of Van Sales, this time end with the establishing of a proper Marketing Department with a cannery. The total cost of establishing a cannery can be easily recouped in the very first year by the savings of foreign exchange we use today to import fruit juice & fruit preparations Later on the Army venture can be handed over to a SLAS Dept and the Army moved to another task – perhaps the reconstruction of our irrigation tanks. Let me live in hope.
Full text: – lankaweb.com/news/items/2020/03/26/a-special-message-to-our-excellency-the-president-from-dr-garvin-karunaratne/
B2. Anti-Capitalist Politics in the Time of Covid-19 – David Harvey
“The modes of consumerism which exploded after 2007-8 have crashed with devastating consequences. These modes were based on reducing the turnover time of consumption as close as possible to zero. The flood of investments into such forms of consumerism had everything to do with maximum absorption of exponentially increasing volumes of capital in forms of consumerism that had the shortest possible turnover time. International tourism was emblematic. International visits increased from 800mn to 1.4bn 2010-18. This form of instantaneous consumerism required massive infrastructural investments in airports & airlines, hotels & restaurants, theme parks & cultural events, etc. This site of capital accumulation is now dead in the water: airlines are close to bankruptcy, hotels are empty, and mass unemployment in the hospitality industries is imminent. Eating out is not a good idea and restaurants & bars have been closed in many places. Even takeout appears risky. The vast army of workers in the gig economy or in other forms of precarious work is being laid off with no visible means of support. Events such as cultural festivals, soccer & basketball tournaments, concerts, business & professional conventions, and even political gatherings around elections are cancelled. These “event based” forms of experiential consumerism have been closed down. The revenues of local governments have cratered. Universities & schools are closing down…
Contemporary capitalist economies are 70% or even 80% driven by consumerism. Consumer confidence & sentiment has over the past 40 years become the key to the mobilization of effective demand and capital has become increasingly demand- & needs-driven. This source of economic energy has not been subject to wild fluctuations (with a few exceptions eg Icelandic volcanic eruption that blocked trans-Atlantic flights for a couple of weeks). But COVID-19 is underpinning not a wild fluctuation but an almighty crash in the heart of the form of consumerism that dominates in the most affluent countries. The spiral form of endless capital accumulation is collapsing inward from one part of the world to every other. The only thing that can save it is a government-funded & -inspired mass consumerism conjured out of nothing. This will require socializing the whole of the economy in the US, eg, without calling it socialism.
The Frontlines – There is a convenient myth that infectious diseases do not acknowledge class or other social barriers & boundaries. Like many such sayings, there is a certain truth to this. In the cholera epidemics of the 19thC, the transcendence of barriers of class was sufficiently dramatic as to spawn the birth of a public sanitation & health movement (which became professionalized) that has lasted to this day. Whether this movement was designed to protect everyone or just the upper classes was not always clear. But today the differential class & social effects & impacts tell a different story. The economic & social impacts are filtered through “customary” discriminations that are everywhere in evidence. To begin with, the workforce that is expected to take care of the mounting numbers of the sick is typically highly gendered, racialized & ethnicized in most parts of the world. It mirrors the class-based workforces to be found in, eg, airports and other logistical sectors.
This “new working class” is in the forefront and bears the brunt of either being the workforce most at risk from contracting the virus through their jobs or of being laid off with no resources because of the economic retrenchment enforced by the virus. There is, eg, the question of who can work at home & who cannot. This sharpens the societal divide as does the question of who can afford to isolate or quarantine themselves (with or without pay) in the event of contact or infection. In exactly the same way that I learned to call the Nicaraguan (1973) & Mexico City (1995) earthquakes “class-quakes,” so the progress of Covid-19 exhibits all the characteristics of a class, gendered & racialized pandemic. While efforts at mitigation are conveniently cloaked in the rhetoric that “we are all in this together,” the practices, particularly on the part of national governments, suggest more sinister motivations. The contemporary working class in the US (comprised predominantly of African Americans, Latinx, & waged women) faces the ugly choice of contamination in the name of caring & keeping key features of provision (like grocery stores) open or unemployment with no benefits (such as adequate healthcare). Salaried personnel (like me) work from home and draw their pay just as before while CEOs fly around in private jets & helicopters.
Workforces in most parts of the world have long been socialized to behave as good neoliberal subjects (which means blaming themselves or God if anything goes wrong but never daring to suggest capitalism might be the problem). But even good neoliberal subjects can see that there is something wrong with the way this pandemic is being responded to.
The big question is: how long will this go on? It could be more than a year & the longer it goes on, the more the devaluation, including of the labor force. Unemployment levels will almost certainly rise to levels comparable to the 1930s in the absence of massive state interventions that will have to go against the neoliberal grain. The immediate ramifications for the economy as well as for social daily life are multiple. But they are not all bad. To the degree that contemporary consumerism was becoming excessive it was verging on what Marx described as “overconsumption & insane consumption, signifying, by its turn to the monstrous & the bizarre, the downfall” of the whole system. The recklessness of this overconsumption has played a major role in environmental degradation. The cancellation of airline flights and radical curbing of transportation & movement has had positive consequence with respect to greenhouse gas emissions. Air quality in Wuhan is much improved, as it also is in many US cities. Ecotourist sites will have a time to recover from trampling feet. The swans have returned to the canals of Venice. To the degree that the taste for reckless & senseless overconsumerism is curbed, there could be some long-term benefits. Fewer deaths on Mount Everest could be a good thing. And while no one says it out loud, the demographic bias of the virus may end up affecting age pyramids with long-term effects on Social Security burdens and the future of the “care industry.” Daily life will slow down and, for some people, that will be a blessing. The suggested rules of social distancing could, if the emergency goes on long enough, lead to cultural shifts. The only form of consumerism that will almost certainly benefit is what I call the “Netflix” economy, which caters to “binge watchers” anyways.
On the economic front, responses have been conditioned by the manner of exodus from the crash of 2007-8. This entailed an ultra-loose monetary policy coupled with bailing out the banks, supplemented by a dramatic increase in productive consumption by a massive expansion of infrastructural investment in China. The latter cannot be repeated on the scale required. The bailout packages set up in 2008 focused on the banks but also entailed the de facto nationalization of General Motors. It is perhaps significant that in the face of worker discontents & collapsing market demand, the 3 big Detroit auto companies are closing down, at least temporarily.
If China cannot repeat its 2007-8 role, then the burden of exiting from the current economic crisis now shifts to the US & here is the ultimate irony: the only policies that will work, both economically & politically, are far more socialistic than anything that Bernie Sanders might propose and these rescue programs will have to be initiated under the aegis of Donald Trump, presumably under the mask of Making America Great Again.
All those Republicans who so viscerally opposed the 2008 bailout will have to eat crow or defy Trump. The latter, if he is wise, will cancel the elections on an emergency basis and declare the origin of an imperial presidency to save capital & the world from “riot & revolution.”
Full text – jacobinmag.com/2020/03/david-harvey-coronavirus-political-economy-disruptions
B3. Imperialism, Globalization, & the Soap/Suds Industry in Republican
China (1912-37): The Case of Unilever & the Chinese Consumer
‘Sherman Cochran has accentuated how successfully foreign firms invested in China outside treaty ports, and engaged in commercial activities related to China’s domestic trade & agriculture. His 1980 book Big Business in China: Sino-Foreign Rivalry in the Cigarette Industry, 1890-1930 demonstrated that the cigarette industry in China was enormously profitable for the British-American Tobacco Co, and that the dichotomy ‘foreign versus domestic’ may not always expedite understanding of China’s business history. In his more recent work Encountering Chinese Networks: Western, Japanese & Chinese Corporations in China, 1880-1937 (2000) he has argued against ‘essentializing’ Western, Chinese, or Japanese business practices in the Republican era. By focusing on the history of specific firms & their operations, Cochran has shown the range of possibilities for profit-making enterprises in the pre-war economy.
In sum, whether the total effect of foreign involvement in the economy of Qing & Republican China was a matter of insignificance, stimulus, or exploitation remains debateable. Less contentious, however, is the contemporary Chinese perception of the foreign presence. As Karl Gerth has recently pointed out, since the 2nd half of the 19thC, both elite & ordinary Chinese believed that their empire/ country had lost its economic sovereignty due to ‘a flood of foreign imports’. Some 50 years after the Qianlong Emperor (r1736-96) informed Lord Macartney in 1793 “there is nothing we lack…we have never set much store on strange or ingenious objects, nor do we need any more of your country’s manufactures,” China was compelled to sign the first of a series of unequal treaties that, in effect, denied the Qing government the right to impose tariffs on foreign goods or to utilize quotas, embargoes, & other protection devices. The sequence of military defeats that spurred these ‘agreements’ forcing the Qing government to pay huge indemnities, also warranted the uninterrupted flow of opium into China. Moreover, as the earlier self-image of self-sufficiency faded (along with the supremacy of Chinese tea & silk in global markets), there emerged an awareness of the growing popularity of foreign consumer goods. The influx of mass-produced consumer products, ‘the fruits of industrialization’ from Euro-America, and later Japan, such as cotton goods (including lace, handkerchiefs, socks, towels, muslins), matches, & candies, competed with locally made merchandise. Moreover, the 4,000 or so Americans and Europeans living in China by the 1870s became ‘walking advertisements’ of these foreign goods. Thus, the military confrontations with foreign powers during the 19thC brought not only the humiliation of defeat, but also what Chinese believed was a ‘commercial assault’ on the local economy.’
Full text – lse.ac.uk/Economic-History/Assets/Documents/Research/GEHN/GEHNWP19.pdf
B4. South Africa Inc & the Assassination of a PM
Those ee Readers old enough, may remember the Ceylon Daily News front page headline of the fatal stabbing of PM Verwoerd, who is falsely blamed by English media as the architect of apartheid.
“He was murdered because he challenged English Capital. It shows the immense power of companies like the Ceylon Tobacco Company owned by British American Tobacco, and of course Unilever. Did they all grow out of the massive English India-to-China opium trade, & the English East India Company? This excerpt also recalls SBD de Silva’s observation that the inter-white-settler battles (WW1, WW2, 80mn dead?) were as deadly as wars of our countries.
Hendrik Verwoerd was assassinated in 1966, a year after he gazetted an investigation into monopolies by the Oppenheimer and Rupert family.
A look into the Oppenheimer Organization – In 1965, the PM of South Africa, Hendrik Verwoerd promulgated an investigation into monopolies & cartels in S Africa controlled by the Rupert & Oppenheimer family.
Hendrik Verwoerd famously known as the “architect of apartheid” was coincidentally assassinated the following year in 1966, before the Commission, led by Professor Hoek, could publish its findings and recommendations.
In 1969, 3 years after Verwoerd’s assassination, the findings from the report by Professor Hoek was leaked after the state under Verwoerd’s successor Vorster refused to publish it. In his findings Prof Hoek, who had even gone to the extent of distancing himself from his own report went as far to say that the Oppenheimer family (now based in Luxembourg) were so powerful that they could destabilize any country.
In 1962 whilst PM Hendrik Verwoerd was quoted in Parliament saying “Mr Oppenheimer with all that monetary power and with his powerful machine which is spread all over the whole country he can, if he so chooses, exercise an enormous influence against the government & the state”.
After his death, Verwoerd was characterized as the architect of apartheid mainly by the English liberal media. Yet Verwoerd had had the blessings from the English who had long implemented segregatory laws against Africans. The intention was to sanitize the English who were the real architects of apartheid.
Cecil J Rhodes on behalf of the English empire succeeded by the Oppenheimers laid the foundation of the formation of the state, imitating the English parliamentary system where mining(business) was strategically positioned to capture the state. It will also not be farfetched to conclude that Cecil John Rhodes was also the forebearer of racism, cartels, monopolies, imperialism & class antagonisms in Southern Africa. The Oppenheimers continue with his legacy.
Some of the laws enforced by the English which oppressed and exploited Africans in order to support mining houses such as Goldfields & Anglo American even before Verwoerd was born include: The Native Land Act of 1913 which legalized the dispossession of African land. The Industrial Conciliation Act of 1924 which excluded Africans from entering into apprenticeships. The Job Reservation Act & the Mines & Work Act of 1926, which made certain categories of work for Whites only. The Native Administration Act of 1927 which allowed the Governor-General of S Africa to banish individuals or a group of Black people from any land whenever it was deemed expedient or in the public interest.
There were more than a 1,000 suppressive laws that were passed before Verwoerd was born in support of the developmental agenda of the English Empire. However, Verwoerd became ungrateful to the limited power England had given the Boers
Some of the Major Reasons Why Hendrik Verwoerd Was Assassinated:
1. He wanted to Nationalize the Mines which were controlled by Oppenheimers & the Menells on behalf of the English Monarchy (The first ever mine to be partially owned by Afrikaners was Gencor, now called BHP Billiton in 1963!)
2. Verwoerd wanting to break away from the Commonwealth under tight English control, he changed the S African Currency from the Sterling English Pound to the Rand in 1961.
Verwoerd was a staunch racist make no mistake, but his separatist policy worked for the Mining Randlords and Cigarette &Tobacco royalty ran by the Rupert, because it allowed them to use Black people as cheapened labour and thus maximize their profits.
However, all this changed when Verwoerd started talking about policies which confronted English Capital & its grip over the S African economy.”
For Full Book – thecall.co.za/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/south-africa-inc-the-oppenheimer-empire-searchable-pdf.pdf
C. News Index______
(ee is pro-politics, pro-politician, pro-nation-state, anti-corporatist, anti-expert, anti-NGO)
ee Sovereignty news emphasizes sovereignty as economic sovereignty – a strong nation is built on modern industrialization fueled by a producer culture.
• Government., private sector struggling to balance supply-demand equation
‘While people in certain areas have received items as promised, many are yet to see the government’s pledge being fulfilled.’
‘• CB, Treasury, Insurance, Commercial Banks named as essential services
‘The Central Bank has been instructed to ensure they operate during curfew hours, Presidential Media Division said.’
• Special Taskforce for Essential Services commences operations
‘under the full supervision of PM Mahinda Rajapaksa & headed by former Minister Basil Rajapaksa: Coordinating electricity, water supply and waste management, Supply of fuel and gas. Coordinating & managing: passenger transport services; the supply, distribution & price control of essential food items & medicines; provincial & district administration activities; the rural economy; the national economy… Officials from the sectors of food, electricity, water, daily wage earners, fisheries & transport for essential services participated in the discussion.
• Trump Suggests He Can Gag Inspector General for Stimulus Bailout Program
‘When President Trump signed the $2 trillion economic stabilization package on Friday to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, he undercut a crucial safeguard that Democrats insisted upon as a condition of agreeing to include a $500 billion corporate bailout fund.’
• Pandemics, politics & paradigms
‘The Constitution enacted in 1978 is full of provisions inimical to SL. The 13th Amendment… in late 1987 forced on us at India’s behest, too, contained many adverse clauses. One such clause prevented the use of Sinhala in the Northern & Eastern regions as State Language. The 19th Amendment denied the President the power to dissolve the House in case the parliament took a wrong path.”’
• BHC too busy to comment on alleged undiplomatic intervention
‘Thilina Gamage’s allegations regarding UK interference in court case: The British High Commission in Colombo has said that as it is busy handling the Covid-19 crisis…’
• US Embassy urges US citizens in SL to leave
‘“We strongly encourage travelers to depart as soon as possible as scheduled flights may be cancelled with little advance warning,” the Embassy said.’
• US Threatens Families of ICC Staff If They Try US Citizens for War Crimes
• How Will the TNA fare at Parliamentary Election?
‘The increased support for the hardline TNPF showed that nationalist elements of the Tamil polity were irritated by the TNA’s perceived collaboration. The increase of support for the EPDP showed that Tamils who wanted development were also disappointed with the TNA.’
• Foreign Funds, Friends & Foes: Fostering Foreign Friends
‘We must also use our unique position in the world to strengthen those organisations to which we belong, SAARC, BIMSTEC, IORA and the Group of 17’
• Foreign funds, friends & foes: World Bank money for jam
‘A major problem the Government should look into is the manner in which aid programs promote corruption. I first got an inkling of this when I took charge of the reintroduction of English medium into the Government system, way back in 2001.’
• Strictly Technical – Aijaz Ahmad
‘Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), India’s National Volunteer Organisation, is the oldest, largest and most successful far-right group in the world today… RSS has also normalised Hindu nationalist violence. In 2014, around the time of the election, a number of intellectuals & journalists known for their promotion of rationality & secularism were murdered, most shot at point-blank range: Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare, MM Kalburgi, Gauri Lankesh. None of them was Muslim, but their opposition to the Hindutva project meant they were classed as what the RSS likes to call ‘anti-national’.
• Worldview with Aijaz Ahmad: West Asia on the edge of a Precipice
‘Political analyst Aijaz Ahmad talks about the US ramping up threats against Iran, its ability to exercise hegemony through control of financial institutions, and the response of European powers to the situation. He also talks about the role played by Saudi Arabia and Israel in escalating the situation.’
• Syria won war, US lost more than it can realize: Ex-CIA official
‘Syria has managed to score a victory in the 9-year war, while Turkey is “pulled agonizingly” in several directions, says a former deputy director of the US spy agency CIA.’
• Palestinians in Gaza Face Coronavirus alone after 14-Year Israeli Lockdown
• Building Universal Healthcare in South Africa
‘In 1939, Dr Salvador Allende, then minister of health in Chile, contended that without improved housing, nutrition and employment for the majority, increased healthcare services would do little to reduce mortality and morbidity rates…’
• Cuba in the time of the coronavirus
‘Cuba’s health system is getting ready for the Covid-19 crisis. In China, coronavirus patients are being treated with the Cuban antiviral Interferón, while English cruise ship MS Braemar, carrying 5 coronavirus cases, was allowed to dock in Cuba’
• Hague court orders Dutch state to pay out over colonial massacres (snowjob)
• House of Mirrors: Justin Trudeau’s Foreign Policy – Book Review
‘It covers two main themes, the obvious first one is that of Canada’s involvement in the U.S. imperial-hegemonic demands around the world. The second, more domestic, is that the Liberal’s and Conservatives, Canada’s two main parties, are essentially the same thing when it comes to foreign policy.’
• The Rise of the Party of Death
‘As the Covid-19 pandemic intensifies, our ruling classes are coming to the conclusion that in the contest between loss of profit and loss of life, they choose death.’
• Trump, in Tweet, Says He’s Considering Plan That Would Kill a Lot of People
‘The president, concerned about the economy, is considering abandoning the measures public-health experts warn are needed to deal with the coronavirus… Trump is “laying groundwork to ease restrictions” & the CDC is looking for a way for businesses to reopen in the beginning of April.’
(The state beyond ‘a pair of handcuffs’, monopolies of violence)
ee Security section focuses on the state (a pair of handcuffs, which sposedly has the monopoly of legitimate violence), and how the ‘national security’ doctrine is undermined by private interests, with no interest in divulging or fighting the real enemy, whose chief aim is to prevent an industrial renaissance as the basis of a turlu independent nation.
• CDN Editorial: “Thus, even though we lack the money to have enough millions of testing kits to test whole sections of the population now at risk, the infection detections, and related exposed communities are dealt with swiftly and efficiently.”
• SL’s overcrowded jails tense over Covid19
‘At present the premier jail, Welikada houses over 5,000 inmates in a space built during colonial times to accommodate 850. In Kegalle, another hotspot, there are 800 in a facility meant for 300.’
• Pres seeks relief for prisoners amidst fears of Covid19 spreading to prisons
‘All prisons in the country are overcrowded… “Most prisons also lack proper medical facilities,” he said, adding that countries such as Italy, South Korea & Iran have begun programs to release prisoners to ease congestion due to the threat of the spread of Covid19. Meanwhile the Committee appointed by President Rajapaksa, …consists of Commissioner General of Prisons Janasiri Thennakoon, Pres of the Bar Association of SL Kalinga Indatissa PC, Legal Advisor to the Pres Harigupta Rohanadeera , Prisons Commissioner Venura Gunawardena, BASL Sec’y Kaushalya Navaratne, & several others.
• SL pardons soldier who slaughtered Tamil civilians
• Prisoners’ rights group to legally challenge Presidential pardon
• A brave President, a benumbed Nation
‘When the President said that the nation was secure, he was earnestly erroneous and felicitously fallacious. Biosafety of the nation was seriously breached. Our biosecurity was severely undermined’
• Covid encounters at the Battle of the Blues
‘Rich, isn’t it, the Chinese giving a loan to Lanka to fight a virus they themselves gave birth to and Lanka lapping it up with profuse thanks and gratitude when she should be demanding compensation from China for allowing the virus to escapes from its land, which would be the case in the law between individuals based on the tort of negligence.’
• Cuba-China drug keeps deaths down, made available to rest of world
• Some Basic Lessons from the Pandemic – Prabhat Patnaik
‘The first relates to the absolute necessity of having a public healthcare system covering the entire population… 2nd lesson to learn is the absolute necessity of having a universal public distribution system for essential goods.’
• Humanity Not Cages: Demanding a Just & Humane Response to Outbreak
‘With 2.3mn people in the US in prison or jail on any given day, an outbreak in these facilities poses a threat to the entire country.’
• Learn from US plight
US spends trillions of $s on space exploration, the manufacture of lethal weapons & regime change projects, in other countries, which are not within the sphere of its influence. It has the world’s biggest military budget, which amounts to about 700bn. But it cannot provide its people with adequate healthcare facilitie
• Assange Bail Application Today
‘Several hearings ago, Magistrate Baraitser stated pre-emptively that she would not grant bail, before any application had been made.’
• Julian Assange denied bail by London court
• How Market Reforms Made the NHS Vulnerable to Pandemics
‘2014 report warned, reforms to National Health Service would make it vulnerable to pandemics – by making staff redundant, undermining public health & defining spare capacity as waste. It was ignored.’
• Could the coronavirus be a bioweapon in the not-too-distant future?
‘Microsoft co-founder & philanthropist Bill Gates predicted in a TED talk in 2015: “If anything kills over 10mn people in the next few decades, it is likely to be a highly infectious virus, rather than a war.” They will not be missiles, he warned, but microbes.’
• Living through a time of plague
‘People who are traveling must be seen to be immune or vaccinated against the “bugs du jour”. Perhaps a barcode rather than the old fashioned vaccination certificate. Ultimately we rely on strong government. Even in democracies difficult choices must be made.’
• Is ‘Biochipping’ a Good Idea?
‘The incredibly promising business behind people injecting themselves with microchips. Bye-bye keys, passwords & tickets… they’re all on the chip.’
(Study the Economists before you study the Economics)
ee Economists shows how paid capitalist/academic ‘professionals’ confuse (misdefinitions, etc) and divert (with false indices, etc) from the steps needed to achieve an industrial country.
• Rethinking trade liberalization in the age of the virus
‘In the case of SL, the unfortunate reality is we are dependent on imports for a majority of our basic needs, and that no local production exists in many essential sectors.’
• Rich countries try radical economic policies to counter covid-19 – History suggests that the effects will be permanent
“The government intervention is not a government takeover,” the American president argued. “Its purpose is not to weaken the free market. It is to preserve the free market.” The IMF pointed to the “unprecedented policy actions undertaken by central banks and governments worldwide”.
• Anti-Capitalist Politics in the Time of Covid19
‘I knew from my studies of the economic model that blockages & disruptions in the continuity of capital flow would result in devaluations, & if devaluations became widespread & deep that would signal the onset of crises. I was also well aware that China is the 2nd-largest economy in the world and it had effectively bailed out global capitalism in the aftermath of 2007-8, so any hit upon China’s economy was bound to have serious consequences for a global economy that was in any case already in a parlous condition.’
• The Mobilization That Must Start Now
‘Among the most necessary big corporations right now are those who run mass distribution networks: Amazon, Walmart, FedEx, UPS, and the drugstores and major fast-food chains. They should be run as public utilities for the duration. That means giving delivery at cost on essential goods and stop-orders on frills.’
• Horrendous economic consequences of the corona pandemic – Sanderatne
‘Workers’ remittances are likely to fall from US$6.7bn last year to US$3.5bn this year. This fall will create a huge balance of payments problem… The annual fuel import bill absorbs between 15- 20% of the total import bill… prospect of OPEC & other oil-producing countries curtailing output to enhance prices. Furthermore, the lower incomes of oil-exporting countries could depress the demand for tea, migrant employment abroad & tourist earnings.’
• Twin battle & beyond – Abeyratne
‘It is an opportunity to look beyond the current pandemic issue to make preparations for the next phase of an economic takeoff. This requires curing our deep-rooted “economic pandemic” issues.’
• People first, economy next, says top economist – N de Mel
‘According to him, a more targeted and less damaging method of reducing the spread of Covid19 could be adopted through arrangements such as ‘work from home’ and for such must be supported by the government regulations & policy.’
• Unchecked fundamentalism Part III: Killer of social progress – Wijewardene
‘The denial of human freedom has impeded the process of inventions and innovations, a must for continued social progress.’
• The World Economy in Coronavirus Pandemic & Policy Options for SL
‘During the past 40 years, economic growth networked to Colombo and many skilled people pushed to go overseas to work rather than using knowledge & skills of them for the use of the country. The government spending on education and training is gained by other countries giving small jobs and this situation could be changed by giving good value to SL Rupee.’
• Pandemic & Socialism – Prabhat Patnaik
‘It is said, in a crisis everybody becomes a socialist; free markets take a back seat, to the benefit of the working people. During WW2 for instance, when universal rationing was introduced in England, the average worker became better nourished than before. Likewise, private companies get commandeered to produce goods for the war effort, thus introducing de facto planning. Something of the sort is happening today under the impact of the pandemic.’
• People’s Bank of China calls for global cooperation in macro policies
‘Analysts expect a rebound in renminbi as the Chinese economy will improve in the 2nd-quarter’
• World Bank Group Pres David Malpass on G20 Finance Ministers Conference Call on Covid19
‘Importantly, we have identified a range of rapid procurement modalities leading to bulk purchases, & are working together with other MDBs & IMF to assess needs, implement the new system, & develop co-financing.’
• Joint Statement from IMF Managing Director & World Bank Group Pres
• The Bio-Economic Pandemic & Western Working Classes
‘In Germany, the same kind of “epidemiological neoliberalism” was suggested by the rightwing libertarian columnist & big business lobbyist Thomas Straubhaar, while in the Netherlands the government now appears to be pursuing this approach, based on the disturbingly misanthropic, utilitarian calculation that it will be (macro-)economically more efficient to let 40-80,000 people die rather than to disrupt the economy through massive state measures such as lockdowns. Interestingly enough, in this case it was not the far-right suggesting this policy, yet strong opposition came from that quarter in the form of Geert Wilders’ Party for Freedom.
• How does US pay for $2trn coronavirus relief bill? with 2 shiny coins, this lawmaker argues
‘Rep Rashida Tlaib, a Democrat representing Michigan’s 13th district, put forward a plan that would have the US Treasury strike two $1trillion coins to raise funds for a stimulus package designed to provide economic relief from the devastation of the coronavirus pandemic.’
• Capitalist Discourse, Subjectivity & Lacanian Psychoanalysis
‘The idea that a consumerist culture has permeated the fabric of society is nothing new. Not only is there little public discussion on alternatives for the free market, this model has pervaded our social-cultural life. Several authors suggest that capitalism imposes the customs of market-oriented thinking on all domains of our life’
(Usually reported in monetary terms)
ee Economy section shows how the economy is usually measured by false indices like GDP, etc, and in monetary terms, confusing money and capital, while calling for privatization and deregulation, etc.
• Ranil wants private companies to import health equipment
‘Wickremesinghe suggests that private sector should be allowed to import the necessary equipment needed for testing.’
• Cabinet nod for more relief to people
‘A range of relief measures aimed in particular at Samurdhi beneficiary & low-income families, self-employed & those living on daily wages.’
• PM denies Opposition claim government will run out of funds after April
‘Under Article 150(3) of the Constitution, the President is vested with the power to allocate funds from the Consolidated Fund to maintain government services after Parliament has been dissolved.’
• Import ban on vehicles, luxury items to stop Rupee’s crash
‘The import of certain categories of motor vehicles has been stopped. Under a schedule, however, tractors, motor vehicles for transport of 10 or more persons, motorcars & other vehicles principally designed for the transport of persons, including station wagons & racing cars (ambulance, hearses, prison vehicles etc), vehicles for transport of goods, have been exempted. Suspended items include…”
• SL’s Rs5 bln contingency for Covid19
‘Without a proper budget, the Treasury has no powers to spend money, raise new taxes or borrow money to meet any shortfall in the revenue as it has to stick to the allocations made from the Consolidated Fund and the Contingencies Fund, the official revealed.’
• New local government bonds reach 1.41 trillion yuan
‘An official said Chinese economic growth in the 2nd quarter could reach 6.5-7%… Net proceeds from the sale of new bonds for special projects will be used for the construction of railway, rail transit and other transport facilities, as well as major infrastructure projects in the fields of ecological & environmental protection, agriculture, forestry & water conservancy, municipal & industrial parks.’
(Inadequate Stats, Wasteful Transport, Unmodern Plantations, Services)
ee Workers attempts to correct the massive gaps and disinformation about workers, urban and rural and their representatives (trade unions, etc), and to highlight the need for organized worker power
• Private Boardings ask Hospital Workers to Leave
‘Some workers attached to the Kandy Hospital complained, Wed, they had been asked to leave their boarding houses as the owners considered them as carriers of coronavirus. The Central Prov Council has come forward to provide them with shelter in a state-owned building. Ideally, health workers should be provided with residential facilities within hospital premises. They deserve much more, & the least the public can do for them is to treat them with respect. They are the unsung heroes & heroines.’
• Unions in talks to ensure FTZ workers paid salaries
‘Around 20,000 workers and family members were dispatched by bus to their respective villages, under a Government program’
• Government requests BOI firms to pay March-April salaries of workers
‘Last morning several 1000s workers who were at the Katunayake Export Processing Zone (EPZ) to board the buses provided by their employers and the BOI to go home, claimed they were neither paid their March salary nor were they tested properly for Covid19, though just for fever.’
• SL closes export industrial zones over coronavirus
‘BOI said 5,000, including at least 1,500 industrial zone workers had been trapped in the Katunayake BOI zone when the curfew was imposed. While there had been enough food & health services as well as 80 buses were available to workers, the number of people in the zone grew to 5,000 as residents of neighbouring areas entered the zone. Investment Promotions Minister Prasanna Ranatunga had arranged for 150 state buses to transport the workers home with the support of health services. (27Mar)
• SL closes export industrial zones over Coronavirus
• Sri Lanka BOI instructed to close all Free Trade Zones, assist employees to return home
‘The media questioned the Minister regarding the statement made by the JVP that there were around 20,000 FTZ workers stranded at their boarding houses. In response, the Minister said that if such a number was still in Katunayake, then enforcing curfew would have been problematic.’
• 9,000 Lankans left high & dry as virus ban hits foreign jobs
• ‘90% of SL migrant workers are deployed by agencies: “When the agencies don’t have revenue, they cannot function, run their offices & meet overheads…now no money coming in. We are also not receiving requirements from employers and this means the numbers we sent out per month come to a standstill.” Of an estimated 800 licensed foreign employment agents countrywide, 300 are ALFEA members. Latest SLBFE statistics available online show, total departures for foreign employment in 2017 decreased by 12.6% compared to the previous year. There was a 7.2% drop in departures through private sources and a drop of 22% in recruitment by licensed foreign employment agencies. Nevertheless, a total of 212,162 left for foreign employment in 2017.’
• Recent returnees from Italy never obtained visa from us – Italian embassy
‘The Italian Embassy said “It is completely untrue that mass burials are carried in some areas in Italy, and that people in Italy are being buried naked and without religious rites.”
• Foreign Funds, Friends & Foes: Perverting Tara de Mel’s World Bank Project
• ‘We need to protect our medical staff’
‘Chinese doctors say Europe is making the same mistakes first made in Wuhan’
• US reaches out to foreign health workers amid coronavirus outbreak
‘The US has appealed to medical professionals, particularly those working to treat or mitigate the effects of Covid19, to reach out to the nearest embassy or consulate to request a visa appointment.’
• English Government to pay up to 80% of workers’ wages
• Economic Pain Just Getting Started in Canada After Jobless Spike
‘Almost 1mn Canadians joined the unemployment line last week & 2 new surveys show the economic pain is just beginning.’
• The Bio-Economic Pandemic & Western Working Classes
‘In the US, auto workers at Fiat-Chrysler’s Sterling Heights Assembly Plant in Michigan went on strike after they learned that some of their coworkers had been quarantined because of the coronavirus. In Detroit a strike by bus drivers ensured that fares would “not be collected for the duration of the coronavirus crisis.” NY workers at a cafe started to organize when faced with the impossible choice of either continuing to work & infecting themselves or calling in sick, losing essential income & risking homelessness. At Amazon’s DCH1 Chicago warehouse, angry & determined workers organized & won a fight for a shutdown with full pay, showing other Amazon workers how Paid Time-off can be won.’
• The Crisis Is Only Going to Get Worse for Workers
‘Labour MP Navendu Mishra spoke to Jacobin about the UK government’s feeble response to coronavirus – and why workers with precarious income & housing need help now’
• Austerity ^ the Crisis in Healthcare – Ontario Health Coalition
‘The overall funding announcement for healthcare of $3.3bn amounts to a funding increase of about 5%. This is approximately what is needed to just to meet population growth, aging, inflation and utilization at not much more than current levels.’
• Comrade Britney Spears, We Salute You
‘Britney Spears called for a general strike & wealth redistribution in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Therefore we are legally obliged to publish something about it.’
• US is asking other countries for everything from sanitizer to ventilators to help fight Covid
(Robbery of rural home market; Machines, if used, mainly imported)
ee Agriculture emphasizes the failure to industrialize on an agriculture that keeps the cultivator impoverished under moneylender and merchant, and the need to protect the rural home market. Also, importation of agricultural machinery, lack of rural monetization and commercialization, etc.
• Special Message to our Excellency the President – Dr Garvin Karunaratne
• Plantations & agri sectors gather steam to meet food demand
‘Workers getting back to fields after receiving government nod to work during curfew hours. Planters’ Association chief assures all necessary precautions in place… According to the World Food Program, SL’s food inflation increased substantially to 25-month high of 11.7% in Jan 2020 from 6.3% in Dec 2019. The country’s non-food inflation stood at 2.9%.’
• ‘Nobody should go hungry’: Kerala to start community kitchens in every panchayat
• SL has imported extra food from India for April season: Minister
‘The emergency COVID-19 taskforce under former Minister Basil Rajapaksa will explore methods to cultivate some of the food items which can be grown locally within a short period of time in order to meet the demand.’
• Labour shortages owing to Coronavirus fears hamper farmers
‘The Government has facilitated farmers to engage in farming even during curfew declared to minimise the spread of the Coronavirus, farmers in Ambalantota in the Hambantota district are also busy harvesting their crops. The Government has also granted special permission to mill owners and those purchasing paddy to transport paddy. However, farmers point out that due to the climate of fear… they are facing difficulties in finding workers needed to harvest their crops, bag them & transport them.
• Vegetable farmers in a quandary as Government keeps economic centres open
‘Farmers who brought their produce to the Dambulla Economic Centre, 24th, after being told it would remain open during curfew, plunged into despair as buyers did not turn up to purchase their produce.’
• Pelwatte Dairy ensures continuous milk collection from dairy farmers
‘The company continues to hold strong dairy collection points in Uva, Central, Eastern, North Central & North Western Provinces’
• Door-to-door delivery of essential items from today
‘A program of delivery & sale of essential food items to homes will be launched, 25th. The program will be carried out by the Co-operative Wholesale Establishment in collaboration with Lanka Sathosa.’
• Curfew affects food supplies to estates says MONLAR
‘Income of estate workers had dropped drastically… Earlier people were allowed to work elsewhere when there was no work available on estates, but they are no longer allowed to do so. “Therefore, we urge plantation companies and the unions to find a way to help these people during this crisis. There are around 150,000 families of estate workers.’
• Jaffna insistent on preserving zero virus count despite assault on officials
‘Many private vendors refused to sell at the controlled price, claiming their stocks had been purchased at the old price and they could not afford to sell it cheaper. Consumers accused vendors of making excuses in order to profit from the situation. On Fri, consumers flocked into Maruthanarmadam, one of the major markets in the north, for weekend grocery shopping & found vegetable prices had sky-rocketed following news of the curfew. Many lamented there were no officials of the Consumer Affairs Authority or the Valikaamam Pradeshiya Sabha present to take action against profiteering vendors.’
• SL’s Prima Ceylon gives 222MT of wheat, poultry for Coronavirus quarantine drive
‘“They have been handed over to the Army to be used under their management.” SL military is running quarantine centres for over 3,000 people who had arrived from abroad in multiple locations.’
• Serendib Flour Mills reaffirms commitment to availability of ample flour stocks in SL
‘Serendib Flour Mills (Pvt) Ltd is a BOI approved Flagship project funded by a renowned UAE investor, the Al Ghurair’
• Where did coronavirus come from, & where will it take us? – Big Farms, Big Flu
(False definitions, anti-industrial sermons, rentier/entrepreneur, etc)
ee Industry section notes the ignorance about industrialization, the buying of foreign machinery, the need to make machines that make machines, build a producer culture. False definitions of industry, entrepreneur, etc, abound.
• BOI factories closed until further notice excluding medical equipment makers
• MAS Holdings chief says crisis of this magnitude not seen in lifetime
‘Bulk of SL garment exports goes to the US & EU. Apparels are SL’s biggest merchandise export’
• President tells Army Chief to ensure export firms unhindered
• Government urged to allow export industries to operate uninterruptedly
‘Exporters request government let them operate at least with limited workforce; want export industries to be declared as an essential service; warn if not repercussions to the country’s economy would be severe’
– Colombo Tea Traders’ Association Chairman Jayantha Karunaratne
• SL exempts ships from entry fees, demurrage, shippers from warehouse rents
• New fuel import tax to reduce Covid-19 economic risk
‘The Finance Ministry will soon impose a fuel import tax while maintaining the current petroleum prices so that the profit margin can be acquired by the Government when importing crude oil’
• Ministers take differing positions on fuel prices
• Ford partners with 3M, GE to make respirators, ventilators & face shields
“One of the things with the auto industry is that it is good at making things at volume with high levels of precision… You’re putting a variety of different technologies together to create a system – & that system can be in a car, which is an incredibly complex thing, or a breathing apparatus.”
• Three hundred 3D printers in one room: A quick look to our printing farm
• Trudeau Government Seeks West African Gold
(Making money from money, banks, lack of investment in modernity)
ee Finance tracks the effects of financialization, pointing to the curious role of ratings agencies, again false indices, etc.
• Why the Government should worry about the stock market
‘Intervene with State funds to boost demand for stocks.’
• Understanding Market Halts
‘Halting trading of the market due to an extreme decline in a particular index during the day, as a result of the share prices falling rapidly, is a measure that is implemented by stock markets around the world. Trading Halts triggered by circuit breakers, were a common occurrence during the recent weeks and continue to be so in stock markets globally…’
• No Reserve Currency?
‘Sri Lanka has injected large volumes of money into the credit system, despite not having either a reserve currency or a floating exchange rate undermining the credibility of the peg.’
• SL makes ‘helicopter drops’ of new money despite soft-peg
‘Analysts had warned that SL’s obsession with short-term rates would lead to instability. In late Feb, a 24bn-rupee central bank profit transfer was made to the Treasury as a liquidity injection in a relatively small helicopter drop which was not permanently sterilized, mopped up. Analysts had earlier advised that profit transfers be halted to boost reserves and if they are done, to transfer foreign reserves, recognizing up front that the rupee would have to be defended against the liquidity injections.’
• Covid-19 – what it means for investors
‘US & global markets took another tumble recently for 3 key reasons: On 11 March, the WHO officially declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic; The Trump administration banned all flights from Europe entering the US; and European & US governments failed to give confidence to the markets that business would be adequately supported during the economic downturn, caused by increased containment measures.’
• Chartered Financial Analysts
‘The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the global markets and the world’s economy is difficult to assess, but there is no doubt it will be felt in most economies and sectors for a long time. While the situation changes fast, investment managers must keep abreast of news, analyses and forecasts. We present a selection of relevant ARX posts that shed light on the economic effects of the pandemic.’
(Rentierism: money via imports, real-estate, tourism, insurance, fear, privatization)
ee Business aka ee Rentier focuses on diversions of the oligarchy, making money from unproductive land selling, tourism, insurance, advertising, etc. – the charade of press releases disguised as ‘news’
• Ban selling cigarettes: Doctors
• South Africa suspends cigarette sales
• Our money will be available to all S African businesses – Tobacco’s Johann Rupert
‘The document stated that for an SMME to qualify for relief, it “must be 51% black-owned”.’
• Chambers of Commerce express support for government’s response to COVID-19
• Banks Pressure Healthcare Firms to Raise Prices on Critical Drugs, Covid Medical Supplies
‘In recent weeks, investment bankers have pressed healthcare companies on the frontlines of fighting the novel coronavirus, including drug firms developing experimental treatments and medical supply firms, to consider ways that they can profit from the crisis.’
• Medical Company Threatens to Sue Volunteers that 3D-Printed Valves for Lifesaving Coronavirus Treatments
(Anti-parliament discourse, unelected constitution)
ee Politics points to the constant media diversions and the mercantile and financial forces behind the political actors, of policy taken over by private interests minus public oversight.
• Electoral System Traps Gotabaya
“On the perils of ruling from election to election from festival to festival…’
• The zebra crossing! – Vasantha Senanayake
‘much debate goes on in the public arena about Parliamentarians crossing from this side to that’
• PM accuses RW, SP of attempts to use legal arguments to block Government finances, anti-Covid19 programs
• Life in Lockdown Land – 3 ‘Aluth & Parana Parlimenthu’ – Alwis
‘I am also not sure of the legal implications of the President’s ability to reconvene the dissolved Parliament which could have otherwise functioned till Aug. There is also a muted but insistent debate on the President’s powers to direct the exchequer to meet ‘corona contingencies’ without Parliamentary approval. The last I heard the ‘people were sovereign’ & a people’s Parliament had all authority over public finance.’
• SLPP project derailed by Covid-19 but a divided UNP won’t benefit
‘Covid-19 has delivered a deadly blow to the high profile SLPP bid to secure a parliamentary majority required to repeal the controversial 19th Amendment or bring in far reaching amendments to it.’
• Delay is deadly: what Covid-19 tells us about tackling the climate crisis
‘The demographics are also completely different. Unlike the climate crisis, the virus predominantly threatens the elderly – the right’s core support group – rather than millennials. So far, the worst affected regions are also closer to the centre of economic power: the cool industrialized north rather than the warmer developing south…’
(Mis/Coverage of economics, technology, science & art)
ee Media shows how corporate media monopoly determines what is news, art, culture, etc. The media is part of the public relations (corporate propaganda) industry. The failure to highlight our priorities, the need to read between the lines. To set new perspectives and priorities.
• Yankee virus or Chinese virus
‘The origin of the COVID-19 is actually unknown…Chinese people do not have a tradition of eating bats. Journalists from France 24 TV recently tracked down the makers of five of the six most-shared eating bat videos. None were filmed near Wuhan, or in China, as claimed. Instead, all videos were filmed in Palau or Indonesia…’
• Philip Gunawardena: a Tribute to the Inimitable Socialist on his 48th Death Anniversary
‘Under British Colonial Governor Robert Chalmers, several national leaders were arrested under the guise of containing the Sinhala-Muslim riots in 1915.’
• Some Observations on Early Buddhism in SL, Parts 1 & 2
‘The notion that Buddhism first arrived in Lanka in 3rdC BC, during the rule of Emperor Dharmasoka in India, can no longer be accepted… This ridiculous idea was probably developed during British rule when the Sinhala intelligentsia was persuaded that everything in SL came to it from India. SL could only imitate, it was not capable of acquiring anything on its own.’
• Dullewa Dissawa & Somana cloth
‘Searching & reading our own ancient ola leaf literature & documents generated by colonial officials respectively at the Search Room of Colombo & Kandy National Archives is a fascinating exercise’
• Jazz and Justice; Racism and the Political Economy of the Music
‘an excellent, easy-to-read, well-researched, highly-recommended book whose main theme, lesson and message is that gangsterism pays, especially if you are an European-American or an Euro-American (mainly Italian-Americans and European-Americans of the Hebrew faith) as Horne calls the parasites, thieves, the Mafia-types and mobsters who have made money off of jazz musicians and their music since its inception around the turn of the 20th century’
• The Negative Effects of Online Reading
We can do a lot of things online, but remembering what we read isn’t one of them.
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